Skip to main content
Search Results

How Covid-19 has changed eating out over the last 12 months

31st Mar 2021 - 05:00
The NPD Group has selected eight eating out/eating in trends from the pandemic’s first year (March 2020 to February 2021) and suggests how they will unfold as lockdown eases.


In the 12 months of Covid, delivery’s share of out of home eating has more than doubled.

According to The NPD Group’s consumer data, spend increased 50% during the 12 months to February 2021. Many consumers used delivery services for the first time, including older and more affluent groups.


Chains, pubs, and local restaurants increased their digital ordering capabilities during lockdown.

Almost £3.5Bn has been spent on collected food and drink orders from restaurants over the 12 months to February 2021 - that’s 11% of total spend on out of home eating.

Meals deals

Over the 12 months to February 2021 more than one-third of all eat out spend (almost £11Bn out of a total of £31Bn) was driven by some sort of deal or promotion as restaurants tried to maximise trade.

A big part of this was last August's Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, when a record 42% of eating out spend was on a deal. While this government-backed scheme is unlikely to be repeated, looking for a deal is now hardwired into most consumers’ behaviour, so promotions will continue to remain important during the rest of 2021.

Dominic Allport, insights director (foodservice) at The NPD Group, said: “As we exit the pandemic, we expect the importance of promotions and deals in attracting customers to grow as operators fight for market share.

“Consumers have shown they’re willing to both buy more and spend more than average on a deal which bodes well for trading levels in future.”


The NPD Group’s data indicates that £2.3Bn was spent at Britain’s 2,000 quick service restaurants (QSR). Coffee chains with drive-thru in the 12 months to February 2021 saw a 14% increase in spending versus the same period a year ago.

Overall, during the 12 months since Covid-19 has impacted the hospitality sector, drive-thru spending represented 12% of total spend, a 50% increase in importance compared to the situation pre-covid.

Boredom boosts treating occasions

When motivated by the need for a treat, average spend per person is 10% higher than average.

The NPD Group’s data shows that since the start of the pandemic consumers have spent more than £8.2Bn on treating occasions, accounting for 26% of all spending in the 12 months to Feb 2021, compared to 18% a year earlier.

Vegetarian and vegan

More than £1Bn of consumer spending is now linked to offering vegetarian and vegan menu options. This represented almost 4% of total foodservice spending in the year to February 2021, up from around 2% pre-covid.

Eating and drinking al fresco

Operators are maximizing every outdoor space they can find, including pavements and car parks, to be able to serve food and drinks from April 12th while keeping social distancing in place.

Customer service

Allport added: “To really stand out and win market share during reopening, restaurants must make sure their customers feel engaged and empowered to maintain their loyalty.

“With the increased importance of digital, having an excellent experience online or via an app and making sure it seamless integrates with other elements of the customer experience will be increasingly critical.”

Written by
Edward Waddell